Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day 11 - City tour & St. Catherine's Concert

This morning we left the hotel and had a tour of the city.  We set off by bus and briefly saw the old Jewish Quarter, then went across the Vistula and saw where the Ghetto had been and got to drive by briefly and see Oskar Schindler's factory.  Then back across the river again and we drove to Wawel Castle.  Wow!  I'm comparing it to the castle in Budapest.  Not as large, but in some ways more impressive.  Very cool.  After the tour of the grounds and a brief peek inside the Cathedral, we went back to the bus where some of us returned to the hotel and others (including me) went on a walking tour of the old town area.  We looked at several churches including the Corpus Christi Church, St. Mary's Basilica and a couple of others that are not coming to mind.  We had time for a leisurely lunch, then walked back to the hotel via the Florian Gate.

Krakow is definitely a city of churches, more so than any other city we've seen here.  It's a great tribute to the faith of the Polish people.  Often churches would be very close together (we saw a Franciscan church right next to the church of Ss.Peter and Paul, for example).  We also spotted a number of religious (men and women both) walking around the street in full habit (Franciscan monks and secular priests alike).  Not surprisingly we saw statues and pictures of Pope St. John Paul the Great all over!  The Poles are rightly proud of their former Cardinal-Archbishop, especially here in his former diocese.

After we returned to the hotel we had about 90 minutes to relax and change before leaving for the concert venue at 4:45.  Traffic was horrible so it took us a while to get to St. Catherine's.  We finally got there about 5:25 (?) and got our concert order and then spent about 45 minutes running through some of the stuff we had not done.  Unlike our previous church venues, St. Catherine's allowed us to sing secular as well as sacred music. After our rehearsal we adjourned to a nearby room, then started the concert at 7.  We sang:
  • Kyrie (Mass in G Minor) (split) (Shawn, Sheryl, Josh, Terry)
  • Sanctus
  • Parce Domine
  • S'Andasse Amor a Caccia
  • Si Ch'io Vorrei Morire
  • Yo m'Enamori d'un Aire
  • Hiney Ma Tov
  • She Moved Through the Fair (Paul, Ann)
  • Bring Me Little Water, Silvy (Diane, Karen, Kristi, Cindy)
  • Abide With Me
  • Let Me Fly
  • You Are the New Day
  • Praise To The Lord (split)
  • Ain'-a That Good News (split) (encore)
We had a pretty good sized audience -- The church was probably half full.  They were enthusiastic and gave us a standing ovation, which was really nice.  Afterward we looked around the church a bit and had some brief words from Jacek, the event coordinator for the church.

I have to say some words about St.Catherine's.  Wow!  What a joy to sing in.  This church is about 650 years old (!).  They do a lot of concerts there and they have created a small stage on the nave end of the church.  This worked really well for us and for them as well; no issues with having to remove the Blessed Sacrament or having people wandering around the altar.  The church has no pews anyway (pews are a Protestant invention and churches of that time and for centuries after didn't have them), just chairs, and so while the chairs close to the altar faced the altar, the ones further back faced the stage at the rear.  The church is comparatively plain (compared, that is, to some of the churches we've seen in Krakow) but has a huge, amazingly beautiful mostly gilded retablo over/behind the high altar.  It's probably 60 feet tall and just stunning.  Other than that, though, the church is not gilded and decorated to the extant many of the other churches we've seen are.  I'm not sure why that is.

The acoustics in this church were just AMAZING.  I'd guess the reverb was around 5 seconds.  It was very live, and very easy to sing in.  I'd go back in a heartbeat!

Tomorrow we are going to see Auschwitz  (well, many of us) and then we'll have free time.

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